Engineered Wood Flooring Installation: Nail-Down vs. Floating-Floor Installation


When it comes to engineered wood flooring installation, few things rival the elegance and warmth of hardwood flooring. However, with the many options available, choosing the right one for your needs can be daunting. 

Among the various choices, engineered wood flooring stands out as a popular and versatile choice that combines the timeless beauty of solid wood with enhanced durability and stability. But once you’ve decided on engineered wood, another crucial decision awaits the installation method. 

Should you go for a traditional nail-down approach or the convenience of a floating-floor installation? Fear not, as in this comprehensive guide, we will delve into both methods, the tools, and the materials required and provide you with a step-by-step installation process, ensuring your home becomes a showcase of timeless beauty and craftsmanship.

Engineered hardwood flooring: What Is It?

What is engineered wood flooring? Engineered hardwood floors are more resilient to fluctuations in moisture and humidity than solid hardwood because they are constructed from layers of actual wood squeezed together.

Engineered hardwoods can be installed using one of four techniques, depending on the subfloor: glue, nail, staple, or float.

Regardless of your approach, the subfloor must be prepared by cleaning, leveling, checking, and adjusting door clearance. The manufacturer’s directions for acclimatization times should be read and followed.

How Soon Should You Install Engineered Wood Flooring?

You should start engineered wood flooring installation after the drywall, plumbing, painting, and electrical work have been finished to reduce damage.

Before installation, engineered hardwood flooring must acclimate to the space for at least 72 hours. Maintain a temperature range of 60 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit and relative humidity of 30 to 50%. Be aware that some tasks, such as painting and drywall work, can drastically increase the humidity in a space.

Engineered hardwood flooring cannot be put over concrete subfloors until the concrete has had at least 60 days to cure. 

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Considerations for Safety

Asbestos may be present in your current flooring or the underlying glue. As long as the asbestos-containing materials are not chopped, sanded, or chipped, as these operations might release asbestos fiber in the air, installing a floor over asbestos is normally safe.

If you remove it, hiring an asbestos cleanup firm to complete the task is safer.

Engineered Wood Nail-Down vs. Floating-Floor Installation

Nail-down and floating-floor installations are the two primary methods for engineered wood flooring installation. Each technique is ideal for various subfloors and installation conditions and has unique advantages. Let’s explore the differences between the two methods before we delve into the installation process.

Nail-Down Installation:

Nail-down installation, the traditional method, involves securing the engineered wood planks to the subfloor using nails or staples. This method offers exceptional stability and is ideal for plywood or wooden subfloors. The nails firmly anchor the flooring, preventing any movement and resulting in a floor that feels solid underfoot.

Floating-Floor Installation:

On the other hand, a floating-floor installation does not involve attaching the engineered wood planks to the subfloor. Instead, the planks are interconnected through an innovative locking system, creating a unified surface that “floats” above the subfloor. This method is suitable for various subfloors, including concrete, as it allows for greater flexibility and ease of installation.

Tools and Materials:

Before we begin the installation process, let’s gather the necessary tools and materials for a successful engineered wood flooring installation:


  • Tape measure
  • Chalk line
  • Carpenter’s square
  • Pry bar
  • Hammer
  • Pneumatic flooring nailer or stapler
  • Circular saw, or miter saw
  • Table saw or jigsaw
  • Pull bar
  • Spacers


  • Engineered wood flooring planks
  • Underlayment (if required)
  • Flooring nails or staples (for nail-down installation)
  • Wood glue (for certain floating-floor installations)
  • Moisture barrier (if installing over concrete)
  • Adhesive strips (for floating-floor installation)

Now that we have all the necessary equipment in place, let’s proceed with the step-by-step process for engineered wood flooring installation:

Step 1: Prepare the Subfloor

The success of any engineered wood flooring installation begins with proper preparation. Ensure the subfloor is clean, dry, level, and debris-free. Repair any imperfections, such as cracks or bumps, and ensure the subfloor meets the requirements for the specific installation method you’ve chosen.

Step 2: Acclimate the Flooring

Allow the engineered wood planks to acclimate to the room’s temperature and humidity for at least 48 hours. This step is vital as it prevents the flooring from expanding or contracting after installation, ensuring a stable and long-lasting floor.

Step 3: Lay the Underlayment (if applicable)

If your chosen engineered wood flooring installation method requires an underlayment, carefully lay it over the prepared subfloor. The underlayment not only provides extra cushioning but also serves as a moisture barrier, protecting the flooring from potential damage.

Step 4: Establish the Starting Point

Determine the starting point for your installation, usually along the longest wall or the main source of natural light. Remember to leave a small expansion gap between the wall and the flooring to accommodate any natural movement.

Step 5: Install the First Row

Lay the first row of engineered wood planks, ensuring the tongue side faces the wall. Use spacers to maintain a consistent expansion gap along the entire length. Trim the planks using a circular or miter saw to achieve the desired fit if necessary.

Step 6: Continue with Subsequent Rows

Install the subsequent rows by interlocking the grooves and tongues of the planks. Use a pneumatic flooring nailer or stapler to secure the planks to the subfloor, ensuring proper spacing and alignment. Use a pull bar and hammer to fit the planks tightly together.

Step 7: Cut and Install Around Obstacles

When encountering obstacles such as doorways or vents, carefully measure and mark the planks for accurate cuts. Use a table saw or jigsaw to make the necessary adjustments, ensuring a seamless and professional-looking engineered wood flooring installation.

Step 8: Complete the Final Rows

As you approach the final rows, measure and cut the planks accordingly to achieve a snug fit. Use a pry or pull bar to install the last few rows, ensuring they are firmly locked in place.

Step 9: Install Transition Moldings

Install transition moldings, such as T-moldings or reducer strips, to smoothly transition between different flooring surfaces or areas.

Step 10: Finishing Touches and Clean-up

Once the engineered wood flooring installation is complete, remove spacers and thoroughly clean the flooring to remove any dust or debris. Apply any recommended finishes or sealants to protect and enhance the appearance of your engineered wood floor.

Now that you have successfully installed your engineered wood flooring, let’s address some frequently asked questions to assist you in your decision-making process further.


Is gluing or floating an engineered wood floor preferable?

The choice between gluing or floating an engineered wood floor depends on various factors, including the type of subfloor, the installation location, and personal preference. Gluing provides excellent stability and sound reduction, while floating-floor installations offer easier installation and flexibility.

What do you put under engineered wood flooring?

Underlayment is often recommended for engineered wood flooring installations. It provides added cushioning, sound reduction, and moisture protection. However, not all installations require underlayment, so it’s essential to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines and consider the specific requirements of your project.

Does engineered flooring need underlayment?

While underlayment is not always required for engineered wood flooring, it is often recommended. Underlayment provides additional insulation, sound reduction, and moisture protection, enhancing the overall performance and longevity of the floor.

How much does it cost to install engineered wood floors over 1000 square feet?

The cost of installing 1000 square feet of engineered wood floors can vary depending on several factors, including the region, the complexity of the installation, and the specific product chosen. On average, you can expect to spend between $6,000 and $12,000, including the cost of materials and labor.


Even though there are Advantages and disadvantages of engineered wood flooring, engineered wood flooring installation offers a versatile and durable solution that can transform any space into a timeless showcase of elegance. Whether you opt for a traditional nail-down approach or the convenience of a floating-floor installation, following the step-by-step process outlined above will ensure a successful and professional installation. 

With the right tools, materials, and patience, you’ll soon be enjoying the beauty and warmth of your new engineered wood floor. So choose what best suits your needs, and confidently embark on this exciting home improvement journey. Engineered wood flooring installation will undoubtedly be a worthwhile investment that will enhance your home’s aesthetic appeal and value for years.

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